II. The origin and nature of the church evaluated from Ephesians 2:11-15
Reformed theology sees all the elect from Adam onward as part of the universal church.
The catholic or universal church, which (with respect to the internal work of the Spirit and truth of grace) may be called invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ, the head thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. (LBCF, XXVI:1)
Israel in the Old Testament is called “the Jewish church” (LBCF, XXI:1).
Many Baptists do not see either the universal Body of Christ or the local church in the Old Testament. Here is one reason why:
In Ephesians 2:11-15 Paul states:
11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace. (NKJV)
Note the following facts:
- Gentiles, who before Christ died were “far off,” are now brought near by Christ’s blood (v. 13);
- By His death, Christ broke down the law which was a wall that had divided Jews from Gentiles (vv. 14 15);
- By His death, Christ created a new entity (v. 15). Andrew Lincoln comments, “Christ’s death not only terminated the old order dominated by the law but also introduced in its place a new creation, a corporate new humanity (‘one new person’) which is embraced in Christ’s own person. It must be underlined that the nature of Christ’s accomplishment is described as a creation and its product as something new. In its newness it is not merely an amalgam of the old in which Gentiles have been combined with the best of Judaism. The two elements which were used in the creation have become transformed in the process. This is “the third race’ which is different from both Jews and Gentiles.” —“The Church and Israel in Ephesians 2” by Andrew T. Lincoln The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 49  612.
The glory of the cross emphasizes that the church’s origin is related to Christ’s death and resurrection.
III. The shape of the future evaluated from Romans 11:25-29, 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, and Revelation 20:4-7,10-15
Reformed theology teaches that everyone who has ever lived will be raised and judged together:
God hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness, by Jesus Christ; to whom all power and judgement is given of the Father; in which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons that have lived upon the earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds, and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil. (LBCF, XXXII:1)
Notice in this scenario, there is no place for the future restoration of the nation Israel. But in Romans 11:25-29, Paul states,
25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” 28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (NKJV)
God made an unconditional covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12, 13, 15, 17) and reaffirmed it in the New Covenant. This includes a spiritually renewed national Israel (Jeremiah 31:31ff) and a return to their promised land (Ezekiel 36:24-28).
Reformed theology teaches a general resurrection and a general judgment, but in 1 Corinthians 15:20-26 Paul teaches that there is an order in the resurrection. Not everyone will be raised at the same time (v. 23): Christ at His resurrection, then those who are His, to reign with Him, then finally at the end of this kingdom (so the eternal kingdom has not yet begun) death will be defeated, meaning even the lost will be raised from the dead.
This is further explained in Revelation 20:4-7, 10-15, where we see that there is an order of resurrection and judgment:
- Believers will be raised and judged before Christ’s millennial reign. (“and they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” – Revelation 20:4, NKJV)
- Believers of all the ages will participate in the first resurrection. (“Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” – Revelation 20:6, NKJV)
- Unbelievers will be raised and judged following Christ’s reign when they will be cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:7, 10-15)
The glory of the cross points to the fact that Jesus Christ was judged for our sins and when we trust Him, we are promised that we shall not come into judgment but have passed from death to life (John 5:24).
We will never stand at a judgment where our eternal destiny is determined. The judgment seat of Christ is concerned with an evaluation of a believer’s work and occurs before the 1,000 year reign of Christ because we “live and reign” with Him for 1,000 years.
Myron J. Houghton is the Senior Professor of Systematic Theology and director of the Master of Arts Theological Studies program at Faith Baptist Theological Seminary. He taught at Denver Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary before coming to Faith in 1983. His earned degrees include the following: BA, Pillsbury Baptist Bible College; BD, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary; ThM, Grace Theological Seminary; PhD, Dallas Theological Seminary; MLA, Southern Methodist University; MA St. Thomas Theological Seminary; ThD, Concordia Seminary.